Sacar Newsletter - June 2022
For three months, we have been putting together these newsletters on some of the issues we are dealing with for our members in the agrifood trade. While we are dreaming of sand beaches, paellas, blue waves (tick as appropriate), we want to announce the upcoming FRUCOM in-person meet in Brussels on October 14th: food safety, nutrition and sustainability will all be au rendez-vous. Mark your diaries!
We hope you are enjoying the reading and look forward to being in touch again after summer!
Wishing you great holidays!
The SACAR team
In this issue :
- Sustainability : a hard sell for sugar trade?
- Very civil dialogue group on honey
- Domesticating the eu legislation in the UK: increased control on imports of non-animal products
- Nutrition : frucom reply to the EU consultation on school scheme/sustainable food systems
- More stick, what carrot: new EU sustainable trade and development communication
- Please keep your sugar to yourself EU-india FTA faces first hurdle
- Desperately looking for convergence on a forced labour product ban
Sustainability : a hard sell for sugar trade?
ASSUC, the association of sugar traders represented in SACAR, had its annual meeting on 29th June. We were all used to these annual gatherings, weren’t we, before COVID times? It is a tad more work than on zoom to get everything shipshape, so that members can enjoy themselves, and each other’ company. The Brussels weather delivered splendidly and jollied an evening resplendent with chatter and the clinking of glasses. You’d wish to join next time, if you are in the sugar business or the Brussels Bubble.
The highlight of the event was the discussion with Rupert Schlegelmilch. Despite not having a name that rolls of the tongue, the frank interventions by the Deputy Director General of DG Trade General were alone well worth the trip to Brussels. Predictably, they revolved around sustainability in trade: mirror clauses, Mercosur, pesticides regulations including neonics, with the Commission insisting on sufficient transition periods when regulations are changed. All music to business ears. If only it worked. We appreciated the no-nonsense approach – certain things can be delivered by the directorate for trade, while others cannot, since they are not fitting DG TRADE competence, or today’s hard reality. Or they are simply unwise towards trading partners, who may decide to retaliate. A word to the wise!
On photo: dialogue between ASSUC President Daniel Kerkhof and Rupert Schlegelmilch, on the need for pragmatism in trade policy.
Very civil dialogue group on honey
We love this name of DG AGRI set up to discuss all thigs honey. Especially since beekeeping falls within the Group for sheep and goatmeat. Smells of Iliad and Odyssey, the Greek holidays …
Back to reality.
On June 9th the participants were presented with an overview of EU honey market. The EU is the second largest producer of honey in the world, after China, with 20 million beehives. However, the EU is only 60 % self-sufficient in honey. The main suppliers are Ukraine (31 %) and China (28 %).
The work is currently in process and no draft is yet available for the new honey directive. A discussion on labelling of honey blends is ongoing, however, nothing is yet decided. The goal is to have the first proposal in December 2022.
The EU Pollinators Initiative was also debated.
We regularly post on LinkedIn for our honey packers and distributors association FEEDM – please join here.
DOMESTICATING THE EU LEGISLATION IN THE UK: INCREASED CONTROL ON IMPORTS OF NON-ANIMAL PRODUCTS
Simply put, this refers to more controls when certain foods are imported, because they are considered more prone to risks. This is managed by the EU regulation 2019/1793 which is regularly updated.
When the UK left the EU, imported food legislation that was in force at the time was retained. The GB authorities are now responsible for reviewing and amending the legislation, and are consulting the operators on proposed amendments. Deadline: 7th July.
Amendments to Retained Regulation 2019/1793: Controls Applied to Imported Food and Feed not of Animal Origin | Food Standards Agency
On behalf of our UK members, we have called for establishment of a public portal with data on non-compliance, as well as providing comments on certain commodities where changes are suggested by the Food Standards Agency. Please get in touch in you wish to know more.
NUTRITION: FRUCOM REPLY TO THE EU CONSULTATION ON SCHOOL SCHEME/SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS
In short, the replies caution the Commission against adopting dietary restrictions on some products because of their sugar content (e.g. dried fruit naturally containing sugar), and promote inclusion of dried fruit, nuts, processed fruit and vegetables in the EU school scheme.
The EU deadline for replies is 21st July.
MORE STICK, WHAT CARROT:
NEW EU SUSTAINABLE TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT COMMUNICATION
In a clear signal that the Commission is no longer Mr Nice Guy, its new Communication on the Trade and Sustainable Development Review puts much greater emphasis on implementation and enforcement, and reflects the more hawkish attitude of the EU towards trade discipline.
The concerns that too many trading partners are happy to flout sustainability commitments and obligations under their trade agreements with the EU, whilst at the same time the EU is ramping up its own sustainability standards under the Green Deal, has garnered significant traction.
As with many iterations of the EU’s trade and sustainability policy, the proof will be in how the Commission itself implements and sticks to the new goals.
To find out more click here.
PLEASE KEEP YOUR SUGAR TO YOURSELF
EU-INDIA FTA FACES FIRST HURDLE
It was with remarkable swiftness that the EU’s Parliament doused the only just re-established EU-India trade agreement negotiations with a cold splash of reality – reminding the Commission that as far as sugar is concerned, India’s is very much not welcome.
That India has violated WTO rules with its enormous subsidies for sugar production and export, a conclusion reached on 14 December 2021 by the WTO dispute settlement panel (though India remains steadfast in arguing its position and will appeal the finding).
But the Parliament has gone one further, to the delight of sugar producers and beet farmers, by calling in its resolution of 6 July, for the EU to suspend of the 10 000 million tonnes CXL quota for Indian sugar. This resolution comes hot on the heels of the first round of negotiations between the EU and India, which took place in New Delhi from 27 June to 1 July 2022.
DESPERATELY LOOKING FOR CONVERGENCE ON A FORCED LABOUR PRODUCT BAN
A recent public consultation and EU trade stakeholder meeting on banning products made with forced labour shone light on the disparities in approach between the Commission and industry.
More encouraging was that all stakeholders were at one that forced labour is a blight that needs to be addressed, and some moderation was shown in discussions around some of the technical details – stakeholder and industry recommendations on mechanisms to identify and comply with a possible forced labour ban were broadly welcomed by the Commission.
More concerning is that the Commission, despite its acknowledgement that it is depending on industry for ideas on how to frame this new measure, remains wed to a general approach favouring Member State oversight and enforcement of the ban. This is despite many industry representatives calling for a transparent and harmonised approach which would avoid expensive and detrimental uncertainty for SMEs and industry by creating a fragmented patchwork of 27 different enforcement agencies and jurisdictions.
Both FRUCOM and ASSUC participated in the Call for evidence on the initiative. FRUCOM’s submission can be downloaded here.
The Commission aims to adopt its proposal by mid-September, and the legislation would have a transitional phase.